Are you worried about Thanksgiving dinner because of your hearing loss? Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays — you get to eat, you get to spend time with family, and the leftovers are always a treat. But as my hearing loss has worsened over the years, I sometimes worry how it will all go. Will I be able to follow the conversation at the table? Will I be discounted because I can’t participate like I have in the past? Rather than wallow in fear, I put together these ten tips for tackling Thanksgiving dinner with a hearing loss. I hope they help you approach the holiday with more joy and less fear. Have a great Thanksgiving!
My tips for how to survive and thrive at Thanksgiving dinner despite a hearing loss:
1. Sit in a good spot: For me, it is very helpful if I have a wall behind me and am seated more in the middle of the table. This gives me a better shot at hearing more conversation and not being distracted by background noise behind me. Maybe you have a spot you like better. Don’t be shy about talking to the host so that your seat is in an opportune spot for you.
2. Keep background noise down if possible: I try to keep any background music to a minimum. While your host may like to play music a little more loudly, perhaps you can ask him or her to keep the volume low during dinner.
3. Converse with those next to you: Don’t try to participate in conversations across large distances. If you would like to talk with someone, move closer to him, or ask to continue the conversation when you have a chance to be closer together.
4. Wear your hearing aids: Some of us hate to wear our hearing aids, but they really can help. Experiment with a couple of different settings to find what is optimal. You can even practice at home if you don’t want to spend time experimenting at the event.
5. Try other technologies: There are many new technologies now available that can help you hear in a group setting including personal FM systems or other one to one communication devices. Some of my friends swear by these.
6. Take a break: Don’t be shy about taking a break from the action for a few minutes to give your ears and brain a rest. Head to the restroom, or find a quiet spot in another room. Or go stand outside for a few minutes. It really helps me to clear my head and build up some energy for another round of socializing. Helping in the kitchen can also provide a nice break from the bigger group.
7. Don’t fake it: It is very tempting to just nod along and pretend that you hear what others are saying or laugh just because others are laughing. But it can be dangerous, particularly if someone is asking you a question. Be brave and be honest with others if you are having trouble hearing. It will make your interactions more memorable on both sides.
8. Give visual clues to indicate if you are having trouble hearing: If you are having trouble hearing, you can cup your ear with your hand to indicate to the speaker to speak louder without interrupting the flow of the conversation. I have seen this in action and it is very effective.
9. Have reasonable expectations: You probably won’t hear everything that everyone says, but that is ok. Enjoy talking to the people near you, then seek out others to talk with during other parts of the day. You might even suggest to the host that people rotate seats for dessert.
10. Bring your sense of humor: It can be hard to keep it all in perspective during the holidays when you feel like you are missing out on the fun, but try to laugh a little and be grateful for the wonderful friends and family around you. You may not hear every word they say, but you can partake in all of the good feelings around the table. Be sure to enjoy the moment.
Readers, what tips do you have for tackling Thanksgiving dinner with a hearing loss?